When I was grading science papers this Spring, I was reminded about life cycles. I saw many drawings of caterpillars to butterflies and tadpoles to frogs.
At Miller Farm I get to witness the life cycle of a chicken.
Of course, they start as eggs in the incubator. That part is pretty boring and lasts 21 days, usually. We always have at least one overachiever who makes their entrance early. Then they cheep loudly to encourage their friends to join them.
After they hatch and dry off they become “fuzzy butts.” These are quite cute and represent what most people think of when they picture chicks.
After a few weeks they enter the “ugly stage”. This happens as they lose their baby feathers and start to get their adult feathers. They are truly ugly.
Shortly after this stage they are in the “piglet” stage where they eat all the time. I guess that helps them grow to be full-sized chickens. Soon these guys will join the rest of the flock.
Hopefully we have enough hens to replace those who have died this summer and we won’t have to go through this life cycle again any time soon.
Right now I’m more interested in the life cycle of a grandson who will never have an ugly stage!
The East wall of our chicken coop fell down last week. It is not surprising. It has been slowly deteriorating over the past year. In fact, I was quite amazed when the recent hail storm did not knock it down.
In fact when it fell, there was no wind at all to blow it down. There was no chicken running into it to knock it over. It simply fell.
The chickens ran and squawked in fear. Rachel said they probably thought the sky was falling. She is so clever!
As I looked at the rotting wood on the ground I thought it to be symbolic of our society right now. We have weathered the storm of a pandemic, the darkness of isolation, the fear of uncertainty, the anger of civil unrest yet we remain standing – at least for now.
I believe there are some who are ready to just fall over at any moment. The sheer exhaustion of existing in such uncertainty has worn them down. They have withstood the storm and now they are tired and ready to rest.
So what does this mean to me? It means I must treat everyone very gently because I can’t tell by looking which person is done standing.
I should encourage everyone I see, offer help when I can, write notes and mail them, bake cookies and take them. Anything I can think of that might make people smile even if I can’t see it under their mask. Hopefully I can see it in their eyes.
We will rebuild the chicken coop. When the time is right, people will rebuild their lives, also. I will be standing by with a hammer and nails, and chocolate chip cookies.
I have a confession to make. Several weeks ago I wrote about being fearless. This is not entirely true.
I opened the door to the garage a couple of weeks ago and saw a snake slithering along a milk crate. This was not a small, cute rough earth snake.
This was a huge unidentifiable snake and I slammed the door and screamed. I did not stop to take a picture but here is one I found:
This is what I imagined: Here is Beekeeper Brian’s rendition of the story sent to our children:
“Ok, so….. I just got the beejeeebus scared out of me. Mom is screaming from the kitchen like something is killing her!
I drop everything, run in there with no shirt or shoes (I don’t know how I will ever get service here, but that is beside the point, I digress) and she is screaming there is a SNAKE in the garage!!!
Well, being the loving husband and desiring to protect, I go to investigate. Sure enough, there is a little snake tail in the milk crate by the water heater.
Resisting the urge to just grab it (since I couldn’t see enough to be sure), I take the milk crate to the patio and start removing things. Sure enough, just a little Texas rat snake. It starts to leave so I let it. All four feet of it. Off it goes into the yard next door.
Well, I might have a few more gray hairs now from the excitement.”
He’s not the only one with additional gray hairs. I’m just hoping the snake told all his friends to avoid the garage on Miller Farm.
This week I am writing not as Chicken Wrangler Sara but as my alter ego – Music Teacher Sara.
I was blessed to have been raised not only in church but in a musical family that actually sang at home. My mother would play the piano, and we sang hymns in harmony. The number of parts varied as each of the kids learned to read music and developed a favorite part.
As we have married and had our own children, the tradition continues when we gather at Nana and Pepa’s house.
Recently, churches have moved from singing hymns to singing praise songs. There are strong feelings about this. I happen to enjoy both.
My previous school sang hymns every morning in chapel. In the last years I was there, I started singing the hymns with my music class the day before we sang them in chapel. This gave the students a chance to at least hear them before the chapel service. Not all of them liked to sing.
One afternoon, just before my last class of the day, I received word that my son was in the hospital 4 hours away. I was devastated.
My husband got the call first and left immediately. He called from the car, and we agreed it was best for me to stay and take care of Miller Farm. I would not have been helpful at the hospital.
I was able to pull myself together before my high school class arrived. The hymn we sang that day was “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.” These are the words.
1 Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise him, for he is your health and salvation!
Come, all who hear; now to his temple draw near,
join me in glad adoration.
2 Praise to the Lord, above all things so wondrously reigning;
sheltering you under his wings, and so gently sustaining!
Have you not seen all that is needful has been
sent by his gracious ordaining?
3 Praise to the Lord, who will prosper your work and defend you;
surely his goodness and mercy shall daily attend you.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
if with his love he befriends you.
4 Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore him!
All that has life and breath, come now with praises before him.
Let the Amen sound from his people again;
gladly forever adore him.
As I sang Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore Him! I was forced to remember that God was still in control and still worthy of praise. Our son did come home and now works at a machine shop nearby.
This morning I was watching a performance of that hymn at Westminster Abbey.
There was an extra verse before verse 4. I tried to find the words in a hymnal but every hymnal I checked only had the four verses. I listened to it again and wrote down the words.
Praise to the Lord who, when tempests their warfare are waging,
Who when the elements madly around they are raging.
Biddeth them cease
Turneth their fury to peace
Whirlwinds and waters assuaging.
This verse seems particularly appropriate as tempests of disease and civil unrest are waging their war. I am comforted once again by the thought that God is still in control.
God still uses music, both hymns and contemporary Christian songs, to bring me comfort. People can argue about what is best. To me all music is a gift from God.
The weather in Texas is notoriously strange. It can be storming in the front yard and clear in the back. This was not the case, however, during our recent hail storm which destroyed our roof and totaled my car (more on that next week).
The hail was impressive in size and came down with the force of a power washer cleaning black spots off the back patio.
I was naturally concerned about the chickens and ducks in the back yard.
I waited until the sky stopped falling and went to check.
Despite their bird brains, they all managed to take cover and not one was hurt during the storm.
I cannot say the same for the duck pond and water bowl.
Fortunately both items were easily replaced and the ducks are blissfully unaware of the danger they had escaped.
In contrast, Beekeeper Brian and I are keenly aware of the blessing it was to get away with only material damage.
We have an amaryllis in our front yard. This year it has bloomed twice and is particularly lovely.
Last week we had a horrible hail storm. Beekeeper Brian was at work, so I was home alone and it was loud and scary.
As I watched out the front window, the gutter came down.
It was disconcerting to say the least.
The insurance adjuster came by yesterday, and we are getting a new roof and gutter.
My only question to him was – can we take the gutter all the way down now? He assured me that was fine as he had pictures.
It will be a relief not to have that reminder hanging off the roof.
Meanwhile, when I walk through the living room I can see out the window the fallen gutter and the amaryllis.
I realized this morning how hard it is to look past the gutter to see the amaryllis. The gutter is much closer and represents a very scary time. But if I focus really hard, I can see the amaryllis which is quite beautiful and makes me smile.This is very much how life is right now. The things that are closest – the pandemic, the civil unrest – are scary and hard to see past. But if I focus really hard, I can trust there will be beauty beyond it all.
I really enjoyed my English classes in high school. I remember reading James Joyce. I don’t remember exactly what we read, only that he used a technique called stream of consciousness.
The way I remember it being explained is writing as your mind wanders, like right before you fall asleep. You just move from one topic to the next with only a thread of connection.
I believe the children’s version of stream of consciousness is seen in If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff.
I thought about this as I got ready to go to work this morning.
I opened the fridge to make my salad for lunch and remembered I needed to clean out the produce drawer. We have some peaches in a brown sack that needed to go into the drawer.
So I cleaned the drawer and moved the peaches.
Then as I moved the peaches I saw my jar of sour dough starter. That reminded me that I was taking some to a friend this evening so I took it out to feed it.
Then I remembered I wanted to take some blueberry bars to our community group tonight also. I got them out of the back fridge and moved them into a different container that would fit in the front fridge where I could see it.
Then I remembered the teacher I am helping at school right now asked me to bring my paper shredder to school so I went to get it. When I unplugged it, I saw all the dirt and dust and dog hair that had been under it so I cleaned the floor in that area.
I loaded it into my car and came back into the kitchen to get my lunch and my water. When I opened the freezer to fill my cup with ice, I realized the ice trays needed to be emptied.
At this point I needed to get to work and I was afraid if I emptied the ice trays, I would remember something else so I went to work.
So instead of saying I got sidetracked I say I had a “stream of consciousness morning.” It sounds so much better.
This transition from house ducks to outside ducks has been the smoothest ever. I was concerned, as always, that the smaller ducks would have to go through an initiation before they were accepted into the flock.
This did not happen.
I started by putting the ducks in the wire cage in the pen with their new friends.Usually it takes a fair amount of time for the littles to venture out. These ducks are particularly attached to each other so they went out together.They spent a few minutes cuddling and surveying their surroundings.
It reminded me how important it is to have a friend when facing a scary situation.
Before long they were eating and drinking. I could rest easy for the rest of the day.
I went to check on them before I went to bed. I was going to put them in the coop but I found them cuddling in the middle of all the big ducks.
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